Shaping and Sustaining Culture: Ninth Grade Hike

Posted by Scott Allenby


Today’s Ninth Grade Hike to the Proctor Cabin is a moment early in the school year where we take ownership of our school culture and teach our students what is most important to us: trusting relationships, connection to the wilderness, exercise, community and the ability to talk candidly with those around you. This tradition of hiking to the Proctor Cabin as a class began in 2011, and has quickly grown into a fun, culture shaping opportunity for our youngest, most energetic, inquisitive students.


Building and sustaining community takes hard work. Each year, we welcome roughly 70 ninth graders who simultaneously inherit a school culture and, as a group, have the unique opportunity to shape that culture over their next four years. Our goal is to encourage each of these fourteen year olds to ask him or herself, “Do I want to passively embrace the culture that exists or do I want to actively shape it?”



Helping our students consistently ask this question of themselves is our responsibility as adults in the community. As is often the case in a school community, we, as adults, have the same opportunity to shape school culture. Roger Connors and Tom Smith write extensively about organizational culture in Change the Culture, Change the Game. To paraphrase one of their main themes, every organization has a culture, which either works for you or against you—you can work to shape that culture, or let that culture shape you. We choose to shape our culture. 



Allocating time to hike to the cabin as a class is just one example of the intentional culture-shaping events our faculty organizes each year. But it is not just the major events, like the Special Olympics Fun Day we hosted last Saturday, that shapes culture. Every decision we make, every action we take, every example we set as adults in the community, both through acts of commission and acts of omission, sends a message to our students about the type of culture we value here at Proctor.



Demonstrating sportsmanship on the sidelines, attending performances, meeting professional deadlines, visiting advisees in their dorms after a tough day, holding ourselves to a high standard in our work in the classroom, making a fool of ourselves in assembly, each of these small actions sets a tone for our community, and gives licence to our students follow. Today’s hike hopefully helped lay the foundation of community, mutual respect, and friendship to empower this talented group of ninth graders to take the reigns and actively shape Proctor’s culture in the coming years. It will be pretty fun to look back at this group shot in May of 2021 as they prepare for graduation. 


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